A time would come within a few years, when Ruben Vega would go to the church in Benson, kneel in the confessional, and say to the priest, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been thirty-seven years since my last confession . . . Since then I have fornicated with many women, maybe eight hundred. No, not that many, considering my work. Maybe six hundred only.”
And the priest would say, “Do you mean bad women or good women?”
And Rueben Vega would say, “They are all good, Father.”
He would tell the priest he had stolen, in that time, about twenty thousand head of cattle but only maybe fifteen horses. The priest would ask him if he had committed murder. Rueben Vega would say no.
“All that stealing you’ve done,” the priest would say, “You’ve never killed anyone?”
And Rueben Vega would say, “Yes, of course, but it was not to commit murder. You understand the distinction? Not to kill someone to take a life, but only to save my own.”